How a split second decision as an 8 year old changed my life
About this time of year, 43 years ago, I was sitting in my classroom at Goldsworth Middle School in Woking. The teacher was asking us to audition for parts in the Christmas carol service. The format was simple: come up to the front of the class and read a passage. Then the class would vote for whoever they thought did the best reading. The winner would take part in the carol service as the representative of our class.
Many hands went up to volunteer, all of them belonging to boys.
Confident and Not Confident
These confident little chaps duly went up to the front of the class to do their readings. I sat in my seat, listening and watching. No one was very good. They mumbled, got the words wrong or just weren’t very loud. I remember thinking ‘I could do a lot better’. But I was much too shy to volunteer. Anyway, I figured that one of the other girls would try their luck and show the boys how it was done.
Except they didn’t.
Exercise over, no girls had volunteered. None of the boys had done a very good job. I still thought I could do better, but I just ‘knew’ I wasn’t brave enough.
The teacher tried one last time to check that no one else wanted to try their luck. I kind of put my hand up. Then I put it down really quickly, overcome with doubt. Then I put it up again (not very high) but just enough to get spotted. The teacher called me to the front.
I did the reading. I remember thinking ‘I like being up here with everyone listening to me’.
I know I spoke clearly and loudly. I remember feeling pleased with myself for having had the courage to try. I finished, sat down and, as there were no more volunteers, the voting began.
So the results were announced and……..I got chosen. Me – little shy me! To say I was surprised was an understatement. I had genuinely not thought any further ahead than just doing the actual reading,
At the time, I remember thinking that I just won because all the girls voted for me (I don’t know what your school was like when you were 8 but there were definitely two tribes in mine!). However, an important little seed of self-awareness had been planted…..I was good at speaking in front of a group and I enjoyed it.
I duly became ‘The Narrator’ at the Christmas Carol Service – a jolly important part and probably the one with the most lines to say. I loved it!
Now as an adult, I can see that this tiny moment, this “shall I put up my hand? yes/no/yes” all decided in probably less than a second, transported me onto a certain trajectory. The results of my little act of courage are still with me today – improved confidence, a knowledge of my skill in speaking, the enjoyment I gain from such events and, to some extent, my whole career; I teach, I train, I coach, I speak.
I do sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t been brave enough to force my reluctant arm into the teacher’s line of vision. But it is a very real example of how a little girl with not much confidence really boosted her chances of success in the world. I’m quite proud of the 8 year old Janet who was courageous enough to just try.
So what is the profound message behind all this that will help you sell more? Well, I’m actually not going to go very deep. All I am going to say is that sometimes we should try stuff that scares us. Sometimes the scary things provide us with the biggest rewards. Sometimes, by going out of our comfort zone, we discover that we are bigger and better than we ever dreamed we could be. So today, I really hope something scary comes your way and that you use it as a platform to fly!
By the way, I dedicate this blog to the lovely Anna Stapleton, who specialises in helping people work our their ‘defining moments’ and is an overall really super life coach! Thank you Anna!
Janet Efere is a sales coach and trainer based in Enfield North London. She helps small businesses and entrepreneurs sell more without being pushy.